Bolt Beat Weekly Poll: Can HC Anthony Lynn turn things around?
By Matt Pagels
Bolt Beat will do weekly polls on Twitter. This week we focused on new head coach Anthony Lynn.
The Los Angeles Chargers parted ways with Mike McCoy following a second consecutive losing season. Following a move to L.A., the Chargers found their new coach, former Bills offensive coordinator and interim coach Anthony Lynn. Lynn ranked No. 1 among NFL coaching hires, according to NFL.com.
Lynn, a Texas native, is another young, first-time head coach, so I wasn’t surprised when I saw the worry-like emojis flooding our Twitter feed. But this guy just seems different.
The 48-year-old seems like a detail-oriented, hard-nosed coach who will discipline his players as well as motivate them. Above all, he seems like an energetic leader, something the Chargers haven’t had in what seems like a very long time.
“But I think the real players, they crave the discipline. They crave the accountability, and that’s what I’m going to hold you to. We’re going to operate that way. And guys that don’t like it, they won’t be around.” – Lynn on coaching style, via ESPN
Don’t call him a “players’ coach,” though, because he’s not one, according to ESPN. And despite the lack of head-coaching experience, the former NFL player spent a good amount of time in the NFL, starting as an offensive assistant and assistant special teams coach with the Denver Broncos in 2000. In 2009, he was hired as the New York Jets’ running backs coach and guided a running back to an 1,000-yard season in three of his six years with the team. In 2015, Lynn followed head coach Rex Ryan to Buffalo and continued his role as running backs coach until he was promoted to offensive coordinator early on in the 2016 season. He helped the Bills lead the league in rushing two years in a row.
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And his hiring likely means a changing of the guard here in La La Land. For years it’s been quarterback Philip Rivers’ team, and while he’s still one of the best signal callers in the league, the 35-year-old can’t carry the team on his back any longer. He shouldn’t have to.
Luckily, 2015 first-round running back Melvin Gordon, who had an incredible bounce-back season, is a player with the potential to take the torch from Rivers in Lynn’s run-heavy offense. Lynn believes he can take Gordon’s game to another level.
But the real question is, can Lynn turn this franchise around? It’s been a rough couple of seasons, with the Chargers last making the playoffs in 2013 (McCoy’s rookie season).
He has built a solid staff around him, including having two former head coaches as coordinators. OC Ken Whisenhunt and DC Gus Bradley both failed in their stints as head coaches but thrived as coordinators, and their experience as head coaches is nothing but a positive for Lynn. The Chargers also hired a new special teams coach in George Stewart, a former special teams coach who recently coached wide receivers with the Minnesota Vikings. Stewart, who might need to copy Clifford Franklin in order to keep his returners from dropping the ball, is the team’s assistant head coach, too.
More importantly, they hired a new strength and conditioning coach in John Lott. Hopefully, the Chargers can avoid the injury bug in 2017. I mean, it can’t get any worse after the Bolts put a league-high 21 players on injured reserve last season, per ESPN’s Eric Williams, including No. 1 WR Keenan Allen and No. 1 corner Jason Verrett.
And speaking of players like Allen and Verrett, the team has talent. They have franchise players at many key positions, their offense has game-changing playmakers and their defense, led by 2016 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa, has trended upward. Not only that, but after competing in all but two games last season with a roster ravaged by injuries and bad luck, it showed that they have decent depth. The Chargers are arguably one or two pieces away, and it’s up to Lynn and his staff to develop these players and utilize them to their strengths.
And speaking of pieces, the offensive line is broken into many and needs to be fixed. According to Pro Football Focus, they finished 29th, 32nd and 31st in the NFL in 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively. Enough said.
But to make things exciting, the Chargers hold the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. The draft is a crapshoot, just like finding the next successful head coach, but picking at the top of the order gives the Chargers a better chance at finding Day 1 starters. They yielded great results last season, so hopefully it carries over into 2017.
RELATED: Weekly Poll – Should Bolts go edge or safety with 1st pick?
With all that said, does Lynn have what it takes to revive this franchise? The pressure is on, especially considering the Chargers need to win now in a city where they rank towards the bottom in popularity among sports teams. But with the new staff, talent and hopefully some good luck, the Chargers have a solid chance to win again.
It’s not just me saying it. NFL.com’s analysts wrote and talked about the Chargers being the team that will bounce back in 2017.
Let’s see what the fans think.
Weekly Poll! Do you believe new HC Anthony Lynn and his (somewhat) new staff can turn things around in 2017?
— Bolt Beat (@BB_Chargers) February 24, 2017
A lot of optimism as you can see. Like I mentioned above, the team has the pieces to turn things around quickly, but it all comes down to Lynn and whether or not he can LEAD his team to the promise land.